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Information Surfing (before I had a computer)

Years before the internet became the information powerhouse and at the dawn of the computer revolution I was surfing hundreds of papers of information via a microfiche reader. For those too young to remember microfiche, it stored information on film strips. Usually one daily edition of the Los Angles times could fit on one microfiche roll. The Sunday paper required two rolls. The microfiche reader was a big and bulky device that magnified the film strips onto a much larger screen. The screen was approximately a little larger than the size of a large magazine such as LIFE or small newspaper (about 3/4 of the size of the LA Times unfolded paper in length). The aspect ratio was about the same as a newspaper, some of the microfiche readers I have seen are wider than this!

Although I was only thirteen at the time the librarian at Cal-State Northridge (CSUN) allowed me to use the library. She stated that I respected the microfiche more than any college student she had seen. I would carefully rewind and put the microfiche back into their small boxes. The reader advanced the microfiche with big dials or levers. If properly maintained the microfiche film also has a long shelf life. The librarian explained that some film strips were at least 40 to 50 years old and had a potential of a much longer lifespan.

I found the technology fascinating at the time. It was cool because I could read newspapers dating from the 1920s and magazines from the 30s and 40s. I would look up stories of interest ranging from World War II all the way up to current events. I was particularly interested in crime stories in the Los Angeles area such as the Manson murders. Nothing was omitted from the microfiche, all ads were in there, etc. Since I was a movie buff I would advanced to the Calendar section of the LA Times for different time periods to look at the movie ads, etc. Even though I was primarily doing this for fun I always learned something new.

For more information on Microfiche Readers check out:

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